In Memoriam: Dr. Donna Parsons

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The University of Iowa and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences mourn the untimely death of Dr. Donna Parsons, Lecturer in popular music. David Gier, Director of the UI School of Music along with University Honors Program Director Art Spisak and Associate Director Robert Kirby offer the following tribute:

The faculty and staff of the School of Music are deeply saddened by the unexpected death of their colleague and friend Donna Parsons following a short illness. Donna’s connections to the University of Iowa are both broad and deep. Prior to her appointment as a lecturer she was an exceptional student here, receiving a Bachelor of Music, Master of Arts in Music, and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in music and literature.

Donna was also a popular teacher who enriched the lives of thousands of Iowa students through her courses both in the School of Music and in the University Honors Program. A social and cultural historian, Donna had a gift for drawing students into the study of popular music and culture as an academic discipline. A large part of Donna’s research and teaching focused on the Beatles. Her office walls were dotted with photos from iconic Beatles landmarks throughout Liverpool, where she’d visited eleven times for research on a forthcoming book. She was a generous and thoughtful colleague whose positive attitude and indomitable spirit were noted and appreciated by faculty and staff alike. Donna was always smiling, always excited about her research and teaching, and usually moving through the building at the speed of sound.

In addition to her outstanding work in the School of Music, Donna was also loved and respected by her colleagues in the University Honors Program. Director Art Spisak remarked, “We were fortunate to have shared Donna with the School of Music for many years. Her honors courses on Harry Potter were legendary – always filled within hours of posting and always had waiting lists. She was the recipient of the Honors Program Teaching award in 2013, and her enthusiasm for and dedication to her research and teaching were unmatched. She was a friend to every Honors staff member and beloved by her students. It’s hard to express how much we’ll miss her.”

Associate Director of the University Honors Program Robert Kirby, who worked closely with Donna for many years added, “Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dr. Donna Parsons. She was a consummate teacher whose passion for her students and subjects was evident to everyone who spoke with her. For those students who had the good pleasure of spending time with her in or outside of the classroom, be thankful for her dedication to you and your success as an individual. You meant the world to her. Donna's enthusiasm will be missed by us all.”